The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell

The biologist/naturalist Haskell spent a year visiting the same small forest clearing, sitting, observing, and writing up what he saw. His discussion (informed by an awful lot of research outside of his patch of forest) are informative, insightful, and thought-provoking. Also, he writes extremely beautifully. The book was a wonderful read and I would recommend it to anyone.

(The author is a Buddhist and this influences the book somewhat, most notably in his choice to call his forest plot a mandala, but I didn’t feel like this imposed in any way on my enjoyment.)

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Zorn Arena UW-EC

Right next door is the Area of Choice.

Zorn Arena UW-EC

Also interesting (at least to me):

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State Fair beer robbery

This is just here to note my disappointment that the people who robbed the State Fair beer exhibit stole only cash, unlike the great Canadian maple syrup heist a few years back.

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Summer weekend in the Twin Cities

D and I and some friends from the math department had a nice weekend out. Minnehaha falls:

Minnehaha Falls with friendsMinnehaha FallsThe pretty Longfellow flower garden attracting some pollinator attention:

Longellow Flower Garden at Minnehaha ParkRed admiral butterfly at Minnehaha ParkD particularly liked the genetics on display:

Flowers at Minnehaha ParkWe crossed the river and ogled a resident bald eagle:

Bald eagle at Hidden Falls Regional ParkFinally, we were offered a fish by a friendly stranger in Downtown:

Carp at the Stone Arch Bridge

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Someone I admire very much writes:

1000 Palestinians dead… It’s time for American Jews to recognize that the Zionism of our parents generation is gone. I have no idea if the liberal, socialist, secular, democratic ideal of a Jewish State was ever possible in Israel, but if it ever was it is now so distant as to barely merit discussion. What supporters of Israel are left with is the Israel of the war criminal Sharon, the buffoonish Netanyahu, and Avigdor Lieberman and his fascist gangs of thugs. The Zionist ideal has been replaced by a Zionism of race-hatred, religious extremism, and ethnic cleansing. No Jew should support a state that would deny an entire people the right to land, water, and self-determination. If our history has taught us anything it should be that.

I’ll never say it’s too late for peace – Israelis can still reject the occupation, abandon the settler project, tear down their wall, allow Palestinians the right to elect a government without interference and begin negotiations in good faith. We should be in solidarity with the peace activists, draft resistors, and other Israelis of conscience who fight for that day. The whole world is waiting for it. Until then, there is no room for equivocation. As an American and as a Jew, I stand with Gaza.

In related news:

Bar Ilan University students, faculty and administrators are up in arms over a law professor’s email to his students that opened with an expression of sympathy for all victims of the Israel-Gaza war, implicitly reminding them that the overwhelming majority of those victims are Gazans.

Prof. Hanoch Sheinman’s email was sent to reassure his second-year law students that because the security situation had disrupted many students’ routines, there would be an additional date scheduled for his course’s final exam. Sheinman opened the email, however, by saying that he hoped the message “finds you in a safe place, and that you, your families and those dear to you are not among the hundreds of people that were killed, the thousands wounded, or the tens of thousands whose homes were destroyed or were forced to leave their homes during, or as a direct result of, the violent confrontation in the Gaza Strip and its environs.”

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If the next time I read something about Clayton Christensen is never then that will be too soon, but at least Jill Lepore’s takedown is characteristically excellent. In the short essay, she manages to pack in two points that I thought were particularly powerful. The first is that curated case-studies are a terrible way of developing a theory: essentially, they allow the theorist to choose only convenient examples. The second is that public-oriented institutions (e.g., schools, universities, museums) are of a different nature from for-profit widget-makers, and a theory developed around the widget industry is going to have dubious relevance at best for an institution whose “product” is (e.g.) education.

Obviously there’s more in the article than just these two points; someone who cared more about start-ups and less about academia might pull out different messages as key. Also, of course, Lepore is just a great writer. I particularly like the line “Ideas that come from business schools are exceptionally well marketed,” which I find understated but devastating.

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Brooklyn-Queens Day

Evidently it has been long enough that the Times does not feel silly running an explainer on Brooklyn-Queens Day.  As it turns out, this is a rare moment when Wikipedia is not helpful: the article was only created after the Times article.  I attended public school in Manhattan, so my main memory of Brooklyn-Queens Day is that the math team coach at Brooklyn Tech would always call the head of the math department at Stuyvesant and invite him out to lunch or a museum.  “Oh, wait, I forgot ….”

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